Regression to the Mean

Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a TV show called Teen Wolf thanks to my close pal Mason. If you’re anything like me, hearing that title might make you cringe. Before I started the show, I imagined this horribly cheesy werewolf love story. Is the show cheesy? A little. But horrible? Definitely not. It’s amazing. And it’s not only about supernatural creatures and romance.

I’ve learned lots of life lessons from Teen Wolf: packs of werewolves in high school are completely normal, dark Japanese spirits called “Nogitsune” are scary, and one should never trust a crazy uncle. Even though these lessons are important, the most important lesson I learned from this TV series has definitely been the principle of “regression to the mean.”

“Things will even out…things can’t always be bad.” As humans, we have the tendency to find the bad in life. Whether it’s searching for the bad in others or making bad decisions, something about wrongness draws us in. This same tendency happens in our everyday lives as we struggle to find joy. We seem to always focus on the negatives, such as how bad of hair day we were having or that rude comment from someone at school or work. But life isn’t always bad. Regression to the mean signifies a balance; no matter how good or how bad things get, eventually, everything evens out.

Unfortunately, when life is really great, there might be something sad or spirit-crushing around the corner. But the negatives in life help the positives to shine brighter. Author John Green said it best in my favorite book The Fault in Our Stars–“without pain, how could we know joy?”

Here’s the great news: regression to the mean is real. At least I believe it is. Which means that even on your darkest days, when you’re behind on schoolwork and are sleep deprived and your soul is weighed down by family turmoil, maybe you’ll win some Wicked tickets (I speak from experience :)). Or maybe a stranger will pay for your meal at a restaurant. Maybe an old friend will reach out to you. There’s so much good in this world. Just keep looking for it.

As I was sharing my thoughts on regression to the mean with my best friend Anubhav today, he said he believes in a “karma cap,” or the idea that someone can only have so much good luck. I think that was his nice way of saying that my good luck of winning Wicked tickets should start falling on him. Anyway, I’m not really sure what I believe about how much goodness a person is allowed to have in their lives. I would like to think that goodness is endless, but I guess “things will even out.” There’s one thing I know for sure though: if life seems a little dark right now, keep holding on. Wait for the goodness, and hopefully your [metaphorical] Wicked tickets are on their way.

We’re so used to finding the bad that we sometimes miss out on all of the good this precious life has to offer. Regression to the mean. Things can’t always be bad. Search for the things that bring joy to your soul… even in the midst of a little darkness.

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